Tommy Johnson Jr.com

tj

 

 About Tommy

 

 

tj

Birthday: April 6 

Residence: Avon, IN.

Birthplace: Ottumwa, Iowa

Career wins/final rounds: 9/22 (7/17 FC, 2/5 TF)

Career No. 1 qualifying awards: Nine

First start: Phoenix 1989

First victory: Seattle 1993 (TF)

Best points finish: 6th (2005, 06)

Career-best elapsed time: 4.672 seconds (Joliet 2006 F/C)

Career-best speed: 331.45 mph (Joliet (2) 2005 F/C)

 

Personal Information

Height/Weight: 5’10"/175 lbs.

Hobbies: Computers, Electronic Tech, Golf, Bicycle Riding

 

Biography

Tommy Johnson, Jr. was born to drag race.

The Ottumwa, Iowa product was born into a family of straight-line racers, thus it’s only natural that his dream was to follow in his father’s footsteps and compete professionally on the quarter-mile track.

T.J.’s racing career started at the age of eight-years-old competing on motorcycles at a local track in Iowa. He raced motorcycles until the age of 14, where he then strapped into his first race car. At the age of 15, Johnson became the youngest person to ever hold a NHRA competition license. His driving career began in the sportsmen ranks as he piloted vehicles in the Super Gas, Super Comp and Top Alcohol Funny Car categories. He broke through for his first NHRA victory at the 1988 NHRA event near Columbus, Ohio, beating Pat Austin in the final round to collect his first career "Wally" trophy.

Johnson earned his NHRA Top Fuel license in 1989. The next season, he powered his dragster to a run of 4.964-seconds becoming the 14th member of the exclusive Cragar 4-Second Club, edging drag racing icons Don "the Snake" Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein, who went on to claim the final two spots in the four-second fraternity.

"That is one of the most important accomplishments in my racing career," Johnson said. "Everyone wins races, but only 16 people are in that club. I’m the most out of place of all 16 guys. It’s mostly veteran drivers and I was a young kid (22-years-old) when I accomplished that."

A year later, Johnson advanced to his first professional final round where he posted a runner-up finish to five-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Joe Amato at the Mile-High Nationals near Denver. After competing on a part-time basis for three seasons, Johnson reached pay-dirt for the first time as a professional driver in 1993, his first full professional season behind the wheel, when he drove his Ron Swearingen-tuned dragster to the win over Cory McClenathan at Pacific Raceways near Seattle.

"Your first win is always important," Johnson said. "I wasn’t expected to win and everything just came together that weekend."

The next season, Johnson joined another elite club, becoming the 15th member of the Slick 50 300-mph Club after clocking a speed of 302.01-mph at Houston Raceway Park. He joined Eddie Hill, Amato, Prudhomme and Bernstein as the only members in both the four-second and 300-mph clubs. Later that season, Johnson set the NHRA speed record at 306.64-mph in Topeka, Kan.

"My biggest accomplishment in racing, to date, is being a member of both of those special clubs," Johnson said. "To join that group of drag racing legends is a special feeling. You can’t go back and change history."

Johnson’s career was stuck in neutral for a few years before former Super Bowl champion coach Joe Gibbs called on T.J. to drive his Interstate Batteries flopper midway through the 1999 NHRA season. Johnson claimed two victories in four final round appearances en route to a 10th place finish in the Funny Car standings in just 13 events.

After serving as a television commentator for the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), Helen Hofmann tabbed Johnson to pilot her Funny Car for the final 11 races of the 2000 season. Johnson stunned the drag racing community by grabbing the No. 1 qualifying spot at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

After scoring two victories in 99’ and success in 00’, Johnson received a phone call from Prudhomme offering something he had been without for nearly half a decade, job security. Prudhomme, a drag racing legend and four-time NHRA Funny Car champion, hired Johnson to drive a second Skoal Racing Chevy Funny Car in 2001.

"I felt like I had finally reached the pinnacle," Johnson said. "It was nice to have the opportunity to drive for a top-caliber team and race for a legend at the same time. It also gave me a home and a place in the sport instead of bouncing around from team to team."

In his first event driving for the Snake, T.J. powered his blue Skoal Racing flopper to the top qualifying spot at the season-opening Winternationals in 2001. He went on to claim his fifth career win when he bested the field at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April. "I was proud to get the first win for the Skoal brand when they entered drag racing again in 2001," Johnson said.

After a sixth-place finish in the 2005 final point standings, T.J. equaled his career-best sixth place finish in 2006 beginning with his seventh career victory in Funny Car at Phoenix. The Mike-Green led team recorded low elapsed time and No. 1 qualifier honors at Joliet (4.672), as well as five semifinal finishes during the summer months, before reaching the winner’s circle again at Brainerd, Minn. where T.J. saved his best effort for last in recording low elapsed time of the event (4.741) in the finals. The Skoal Racing crew notched its second No. 1 qualifier award (4.693) at Reading (Pa.) and advanced to their third final of the season with a runner-up finish at the fall Las Vegas event.

Johnson raced to his ninth career professional victory when he paced the field at Englishtown, N.J. and won from the pole for the first time in his career. Coming back from a spectacular first-round fire, the Skoal Racing crew quickly responded and helped reach the winner’s circle along with teammate Larry Dixon. It was the first time that Johnson and Dixon won on the same day during their tenure at DPR. Johnson also earned two poles (Englishtown and Richmond).

Johnson’s experience isn’t just limited to the cockpit. The veteran racer was involved in managing his family-owned Top Fuel team, including sponsor-relations, budgets, personnel, and the day-to-day skills necessary to run a successful race team helping the young driver grow into a well-rounded individual that can do much more than just drive the car.

He also owned a thriving racing collectibles business in the late 90s. The nitro racer operated a mail order collectible business in Iowa that he sold in 1999 to return as a full-time NHRA racer.

In 2008, Johnson piloted the Monster Energy Funny Car for racing legend and six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein. Johnson has raced for three of the biggest names in auto racing in Gibbs, Prudhomme and Bernstein gaining valuable experience on owning and operating a successful motor sports team. During his racing career, that has spanned three decades, Johnson has developed a reputation as one of the elite drivers in NHRA’s nitro ranks and learned the necessary skills to drive, own and manage a championship-caliber racing team.

Johnson joined NHRA mega team Don Schumacher Racing in the winter of 2009 as the lead driver for the Yas Marina Circuit Top Fuel dragsters. Johnson and Rod Fuller christened the Yas Drag Centre in Abu Dhabi, March 18-20, as part of the Yas Drag Festival at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Johnson had an impressive Middle East debut by making all six runs from a 3.89 to 3.93 seconds and just missing the 500 kilometer mark when he ran 499.76 kilometers per hour. The teams are planning a December return to Abu Dhabi to compete in front of the Emirate fans again.    

 

Career Statistics

2010: First Top Fuel Driver to ever run down the new drag strip in Abu Dhabi, at the Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates.

2008: Drove for drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein. Only person to ever drive for KBR outside of the Bernstein family.

2007: Won in Englishtown, NJ after a first round fire that burned the car to the ground. The team rebuilt the entire car in 75 minutes to go on and win the race, set low e.t. of the day, all after qualifying number one.

2006: Earned victories at Phoenix and Brainerd, Minn. and runner-up at fall Las Vegas event to equal a career-best sixth place finish for the year. His career-best run of 4.672 seconds was also low E.T. at Joliet and collected his second No. 1 qualifier award of the year at Reading, Pa. Also posted a runner-up finish at the $100,000 Skoal Showdown bonus event.

2005: Won NHRA season-opening Winternationals. Advanced to two final rounds and finished a career-best sixth in the Funny Car standings. Set career-best performances at the fall Joliet race (4.698 seconds, 331.45 mph).

2003: One of four Funny Car drivers to qualify for all 23 races.

2002: Advanced to a career-best four final round appearances.

2001: Victory at Las Vegas (April 8) was the first for Prudhomme’s new two-car organization and came two days after Johnson and Prudhomme celebrated their birthdays (both were born on April 6). He was also a runner-up in St. Louis.

2000: Became a member of Don Prudhomme’s Funny Car organization in December. Qualified No. 1 at U.S. Nationals driving Helen Hofmann’s Funny Car.

1999: Joined Joe Gibbs Funny Car team for the final 13 races. Won his first Funny Car race at Reading, Pa. Added a second win at Memphis, was runner-up twice, ran his quickest speed (320.05 mph) to become only the third driver in the category to exceed 320, and became the 12th NHRA driver to win races in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

1995: Enjoyed his best NHRA Top Fuel series finish (8th) in his last full season driving his family-backed dragster.

1994: Became the 15th member of the Slick 50 300-mph Club (302.01 mph) and one of only five drivers to hold spots in both the 300-mph club and the Cragar 4-second Club. Won at Memphis for his second dragster win and held the speed record for three months at 306.64 mph.

1993: Notched his first professional victory at Seattle and was runner-up two weeks later at Brainerd, Minn. He also made his first top 10 appearance at No. 10.

 

Career Final Round Record

 

2007 (FC) Englishtown Winner

2006 (FC) Phoenix Winner, Brainerd Winner, Las Vegas 2 runner-up

2005 (FC) Pomona 1 Winner, Topeka runner-up

2003 (FC) Chicago 1 runner-up

2002 (FC) Las Vegas 1 runner-up, Houston runner-up, Indianapolis runner-up,Pomona 2 runner-up

2001 (FC)Las Vegas 1 Winner, St. Louis runner-up

1999 (FC) Reading Winner, Memphis Winner, Topeka runner-up, Dallas 2 runner-up

1995 (TF) Brainerd runner-up

1994 (TF) Memphis Winner

1993 (TF) Seattle Winner, Brainerd runner-up

1991 (TF) Denver runner-up

1988 (TA/FC) Columbus, Winner

Career No. 1 Qualifier Record

2007 (FC) Englishtown, Richmond

2006 (FC) Joliet, Reading

2001 (FC) Pomona 1

2000 (FC) Indianapolis

1999 (FC) Indianapolis, St. Louis

1994 (TF) Sonoma